Airport Rising | Urban Living
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Airport Rising

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Who woulda thunk that the coronavirus could save Salt Lake City up to $300 million in the next few years? Commercial airline transportation is at an all-time low these days. Few workers are needed at the airport to sell bottled water and fast food or be stationed at the many closed-down gates, stacking up lost luggage, washing and cleaning planes, etc. It's a ghost town of transportation. With so little going on there, the new airport being built next door can be finished earlier and for less money.

The Department of Airports met on May 20, where Executive Director Bill Wyatt reported that only 1,900 passengers had passed through TSA that day, the lowest count in the airport's history. Normally, the daily passenger volume is around 20,000. Only about 4,100 passengers traveled through the Salt Lake City airport this past Memorial Day. Flights have been reduced up to 90% depending on the airline. He also noted that after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, air travel was curtailed but it slowly came back to normal as security (TSA) stepped in and changed how we all travel. That isn't happening at this time as folks are still avoiding flying.

Originally, the plan was to tear down the airport's concourses B and C in an organized fashion as the first phase of the new terminals was complete in September. With less activity and fewer people around, they can remove concourses B and C all at once, and they will not have to use the old airport after October. Then, they can move on to Phase 2 and finish the new airport three years earlier, in 2024 instead of 2027. The time savings = money saved. Of course, this all will depend on activity and if people begin flying more. Salt Lake City airport received almost $83 million in economic relief from the federal government to help avoid laying off its workforce.

Ours is the only major U.S. airport being completely rebuilt right now, and when the construction is done, travelers will be amazed. Not only will it be larger but will feature 47-foot-high ceilings and enormous artwork, including an all-white piece by Gordon Huether called "The Canyon," which will be the size of a football field and evoke the Salt Lake City landscape. Director Wyatt believes the new airport will also be a cleaner place because social distancing is easier to manage in large buildings.

Travelers utilizing electronic tickets and bag tags as well as phone apps with QR code-tickets reduce hand-to-hand touching and limit the virus' spread. How long will airport workers wear masks? Who knows how long this pandemic will go on?

To follow the airport's rebuild, visit SLCAirport.com/thenewslc